For the past month I’ve found myself wasting a lot of time.
What I mean by that is that my default state hasn’t been one of productive habits. I’ll wake up, get a big task or project done, and then instead of deliberately doing something else – I slack off.
You know what it’s like when you pull out your phone and start scrolling through Facebook or Instagram – or getting lost in an endless stream of You Tube videos or blog posts.
That’s been my default state lately, and that in itself can be completely overwhelming.
How to Stop Wasting Time
Here’s the thing about killing time: it leads to more killing time.
Often it starts with just 5 or 10 minutes between tasks. However if you’re not careful, that can quickly turn into a half an hour or more, and happen multiple times a day.
Yet the routine I’ve found myself in has me accomplishing less, when I’m at a time that I should be accomplishing much more.
This problem can be much more dangerous when you’re working for yourself. It’s not like you’re still going to collect your paycheck if you slack off as a solopreneur.
My ability to be productive is directly related to my ability to pay my bills and continue living this lifestyle – so when I find myself in one of these phases, it’s not a good place to be.
The thing is, it’s not necessarily hard to change these routines. I honestly didn’t even realize that I’d been doing this until I turned a corner and had a truly productive day.
I started thinking to myself “what changed?” What made this one day so much better than the day before it?
The answer was twofold and extremely simple (perhaps even obvious):
- The night before I created my “Top 5”
- I made breakfast
Strategy #1 to Stop Wasting Time: Create a “Top 5”
One thing that my boss taught me back in my old job was the importance of the Top 5. Before leaving every work every night he taught me to write out the top 5 things I had to do for the next day.
This way when I woke up and got back to work, there was no confusion or room for questioning what had to get done.
I waste time when I don’t have a clear idea of what I need to do – so by making it explicitly clear, I didn’t give myself enough time to slack.
I’ve also modified the concept of the top 5 to work really well for me.
You can see exactly what that looks like in my post: My Best Secret for Procrastination and Getting Stuff Done.
When I get out of the habit of doing this, my work struggles. So this is a reminder of how important this process is, especially when you’re busy.
Strategy #2 to Stop Wasting Time: Eat Breakfast
Again, this seems like one of those “shouldn’t you do that everyday?” kind of things.
I usually don’t eat breakfast, however when I do it’s a really powerful trigger for me.
When I take the time to make breakfast, I almost always pour a big glass of water and drink it while I’m making it.
Then I have another while I’m eating.
Right there I’ve knocked off two healthy habits early in the morning. These things trigger me to continue making good, healthful choices.
I tend to exercise more on these days. I’m more focused.
On this particular day when I was so much more productive I did both of these things.
I got twice as much stuff done in half the amount of time, and I left a lot of time left in the day to go play.
I went golfing. I played video games for a little while. Then I went out to dinner with friends.
What’s important about each of those leisure activities is that I was deliberate about them – just as I was with my work.
That word is the most important part of success for me: deliberate.
Even things that may seem like a waste of time, such as playing video games, are totally fine, as long as you’re purposefully making the decision to do it – and not going overboard.
If you’re not deliberate in your actions you’ll find yourself killing much more time than you should be.
Start with your top 5, so you have a roadmap.
Then figure out what your healthy habit trigger is to help kickstart the day. For me, it’s breakfast.
For you it could be exercise, meditation, yoga, reading, etc.
Daily Roadmap + Healthy Trigger = More Deliberate Action
This leads to less stress and a greater sense of happiness – or at least it has for me.
How do you avoid killing time? Have you ever found yourself in the same situation I’ve been in? Share your story with us in the comments!